Samuel DuBois Cook Society

The mission of the Cook Society is to recognize, celebrate, and affirm the presence of African-American students, faculty, and staff at Duke University. Members of the society commit themselves to the objectives to which Dr. Cook dedicated his professional life:

  • Nurture a sense of community and belonging for African Americans
  • Translate the promise and potential of African Americans at Duke into fulfillment and actuality
  • Foster positive and constructive interpersonal and intergroup relations within both Duke University's and Durham's African-American communities
  • Cultivate positive relations between African Americans and other ethnic, racial, and national groups on the basis of an enlightened appreciation and knowledge of our historic interdependence

Learn more about the aims of the Cook Society.

About the Society

The Samuel DuBois Cook Society was founded in the spring of 1997 to honor Dr. Cook, a retired Duke University professor who was the first African-American professor to hold a regular faculty appointment at a predominantly white college or university in the South. The society recognizes the years of service that Dr. Cook has offered to Duke University, to the cause of African-American advancement, and to the betterment of relations between people of all backgrounds.

About Dr. Samuel Dubois Cook

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Dr. Cook was a retired Duke University professor and Dillard University president who dedicated his professional life to social justice. While at Duke, he championed the rights of non-academic employees, black student access, mentoring for junior faculty, the university’s relationship to the black community, and the relations between blacks and Jews — work that he also carried out on the national level. A close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., he always shared Dr. King’s vision of the “beloved community.”

Dr. Cook was appointed a professor in Duke’s political science department in 1966, making him the first African-American professor to hold a regular faculty appointment at any predominantly white college or university in the South. Nine years after his appointment to Duke, he was chosen to serve as president of Dillard University, a historically black liberal arts institution in New Orleans. He served as president for 22 years, retiring in 1997. During his tenure at Dillard, President Cook initiated a Japanese language studies program (the first at a historically black college) and founded the Center for Black-Jewish Relations.

Dr. Cook served as a member of the Duke University Board of Trustees from 1981 to 1993. In 1993, Dillard University honored Dr. Cook by naming the school's new fine arts and communication center after him. That same year, he was elected by Duke University's Board of Trustee as a trustee emeritus.

Dr. Cook continued to lecture at universities and colleges around the country until his death on May 29th, 2017. He served on the board of trustees of The King Center in Atlanta since its founding in 1968.

Samuel Dubois Cook Society Awards

Each year, we recognize community members who follow Dr. Cook's example of social activism and leadership.

2017 Award Recipients

  • Richard H. Brodhead
  • David Malone
  • Wahneema Lubiano
  • Juan Ramirez Jr.
  • Henry Washington Jr.
  • Edward Gomes
  • Leonidas Nelson Jr.

Nominate someone here. If the person you would like to nominate is a faculty member, please see here.

Sponsor the dinner.

See past award winners.

Get Involved

Society is open to all who are interested in our objectives and are committed to working toward the progress of African Americans who are part of the Duke University community. If you would like to stayed informed of Cook Society activities, please email your contact information to laurel.matthes@duke.edu.